> Tell us, ye Dead, will none of you in pity To those you left behind disclos_he secret? O! That some courteous Ghost would blab it out, What 'tis you are, and we must shortly be. I've heard that Souls departed have sometimes Fore- warned Men of their deaths: 'Twas kindly done To knock, and give the alarum.
Ambrosio shuddered at himself, when He reflected on his rapid advances i_niquity. The enormous crime which He had just committed filled him with rea_orror. The murdered Elvira was continually before his eyes, and his guilt wa_lready punished by the agonies of his conscience. Time, however, considerabl_eakened these impressions: One day passed away, another followed it, an_till not the least suspicion was thrown upon him. Impunity reconciled him t_is guilt: He began to resume his spirits; and as his fears of detection die_way, He paid less attention to the reproaches of remorse. Matilda exerte_erself to quiet his alarms. At the first intelligence of Elvira's death, Sh_eemed greatly affected, and joined the Monk in deploring the unhapp_atastrophe of his adventure: But when She found his agitation to be somewha_almed, and himself better disposed to listen to her arguments, She proceede_o mention his offence in milder terms, and convince him that He was not s_ighly culpable as He appeared to consider himself. She represented that H_ad only availed himself of the rights which Nature allows to every one, thos_f self-preservation: That either Elvira or himself must have perished, an_hat her inflexibility and resolution to ruin him had deservedly marked he_ut for the Victim. She next stated, that as He had before rendered himsel_uspected to Elvira, it was a fortunate event for him that her lips wer_losed by death; since without this last adventure, her suspicions if mad_ublic might have produced very disagreeable consequences. He had therefor_reed himself from an Enemy, to whom the errors of his conduct wer_ufficiently known to make her dangerous, and who was the greatest obstacle t_is designs upon Antonia. Those designs She encouraged him not to abandon. Sh_ssured him that, no longer protected by her Mother's watchful eye, th_aughter would fall an easy conquest; and by praising and enumeratin_ntonia's charms, She strove to rekindle the desires of the Monk. In thi_ndeavour She succeeded but too well.
As if the crimes into which his passion had seduced him had only increased it_iolence, He longed more eagerly than ever to enjoy Antonia. The same succes_n concealing his present guilt, He trusted would attend his future. He wa_eaf to the murmurs of conscience, and resolved to satisfy his desires at an_rice. He waited only for an opportunity of repeating his former enterprize; But to procure that opportunity by the same means was now impracticable. I_he first transports of despair He had dashed the enchanted Myrtle into _housand pieces: Matilda told him plainly that He must expect no furthe_ssistance from the infernal Powers unless He was willing to subscribe t_heir established conditions. This Ambrosio was determined not to do: H_ersuaded himself that however great might be his iniquity, so long as h_reserved his claim to salvation, He need not despair of pardon. He therefor_esolutely refused to enter into any bond or compact with the Fiends; an_atilda finding him obstinate upon this point, forbore to press him further.
She exerted her invention to discover some means of putting Antonia into th_bbot's power: Nor was it long before that means presented itself.
While her ruin was thus meditating, the unhappy Girl herself suffered severel_rom the loss of her Mother. Every morning on waking, it was her first care t_asten to Elvira's chamber. On that which followed Ambrosio's fatal visit, Sh_oke later than was her usual custom: Of this She was convinced by the Abbe_himes. She started from her bed, threw on a few loose garments hastily, an_as speeding to enquire how her Mother had passed the night, when her foo_truck against something which lay in her passage. She looked down. What wa_er horror at recognizing Elvira's livid Corse! She uttered a loud shriek, an_hrew herself upon the floor. She clasped the inanimate form to her bosom, felt that it was dead-cold, and with a movement of disgust, of which She wa_ot the Mistress, let it fall again from her arms. The cry had alarmed Flora, who hastened to her assistance. The sight which She beheld penetrated her wit_orror; but her alarm was more audible than Antonia's. She made the House rin_ith her lamentations, while her Mistress, almost suffocated with grief, coul_nly mark her distress by sobs and groans. Flora's shrieks soon reached th_ars of the Hostess, whose terror and surprize were excessive on learning th_ause of this disturbance. A Physician was immediately sent for: But on th_irst moment of beholding the Corse, He declared that Elvira's recovery wa_eyond the power of art. He proceeded therefore to give his assistance t_ntonia, who by this time was truly in need of it. She was conveyed to bed, while the Landlady busied herself in giving orders for Elvira's Burial. Dam_acintha was a plain good kind of Woman, charitable, generous, and devout: Bu_er intellects were weak, and She was a Miserable Slave to fear an_uperstition. She shuddered at the idea of passing the night in the same Hous_ith a dead Body: She was persuaded that Elvira's Ghost would appear to her, and no less certain that such a visit would kill her with fright. From thi_ersuasion, She resolved to pass the night at a Neighbour's, and insisted tha_he Funeral should take place the next day. St. Clare's Cemetery being th_earest, it was determined that Elvira should be buried there. Dame Jacinth_ngaged to defray every expence attending the burial. She knew not in wha_ircumstances Antonia was left, but from the sparing manner in which th_amily had lived, She concluded them to be indifferent.
Consequently, She entertained very little hope of ever being recompensed; Bu_his consideration prevented her not from taking care that the Interment wa_erformed with decency, and from showing the unfortunate Antonia all possibl_espect.
Nobody dies of mere grief; Of this Antonia was an instance. Aided by her yout_nd healthy constitution, She shook off the malady which her Mother's deat_ad occasioned; But it was not so easy to remove the disease of her mind. He_yes were constantly filled with tears: Every trifle affected her, and Sh_vidently nourished in her bosom a profound and rooted melancholy. Th_lightest mention of Elvira, the most trivial circumstance recalling tha_eloved Parent to her memory, was sufficient to throw her into seriou_gitation. How much would her grief have been increased, had She known th_gonies which terminated her Mother's existence! But of this no on_ntertained the least suspicion. Elvira was subject to strong convulsions: I_as supposed that, aware of their approach, She had dragged herself to he_aughter's chamber in hopes of assistance; that a sudden access of her fit_ad seized her, too violent to be resisted by her already enfeebled state o_ealth; and that She had expired ere She had time to reach the medicine whic_enerally relieved her, and which stood upon a shelf in Antonia's room. Thi_dea was firmly credited by the few people, who interested themselves abou_lvira: Her Death was esteemed a natural event, and soon forgotten by all sav_y her, who had but too much reason to deplore her loss.
In truth Antonia's situation was sufficiently embarrassing and unpleasant. Sh_as alone in the midst of a dissipated and expensive City; She was il_rovided with money, and worse with Friends. Her aunt Leonella was still a_ordova, and She knew not her direction. Of the Marquis de las Cisternas Sh_eard no news: As to Lorenzo, She had long given up the idea of possessing an_nterest in his bosom. She knew not to whom She could address herself in he_resent dilemma. She wished to consult Ambrosio; But She remembered he_other's injunctions to shun him as much as possible, and the las_onversation which Elvira had held with her upon the subject had given he_ufficient lights respecting his designs to put her upon her guard against hi_n future. Still all her Mother's warnings could not make her change her goo_pinion of the Friar. She continued to feel that his friendship and societ_ere requisite to her happiness: She looked upon his failings with a partia_ye, and could not persuade herself that He really had intended her ruin.
However, Elvira had positively commanded her to drop his acquaintance, and Sh_ad too much respect for her orders to disobey them.
At length She resolved to address herself for advice and protection to th_arquis de las Cisternas, as being her nearest Relation. She wrote to him, briefly stating her desolate situation; She besought him to compassionate hi_rother's Child, to continue to her Elvira's pension, and to authorise he_etiring to his old Castle in Murcia, which till now had been her retreat.
Having sealed her letter, She gave it to the trusty Flora, who immediately se_ut to execute her commission. But Antonia was born under an unlucky Star. Ha_he made her application to the Marquis but one day sooner, received as hi_iece and placed at the head of his Family, She would have escaped all th_isfortunes with which She was now threatened. Raymond had always intended t_xecute this plan: But first, his hopes of making the proposal to Elvir_hrough the lips of Agnes, and afterwards, his disappointment at losing hi_ntended Bride, as well as the severe illness which for some time had confine_im to his Bed, made him defer from day to day the giving an Asylum in hi_ouse to his Brother's Widow. He had commissioned Lorenzo to supply he_iberally with money: But Elvira, unwilling to receive obligations from tha_obleman, had assured him that She needed no immediate pecuniary assistance.
Consequently, the Marquis did not imagine that a trifling delay on his par_ould create any embarrassment; and the distress and agitation of his min_ight well excuse his negligence.
Had He been informed that Elvira's death had left her Daughter Friendless an_nprotected, He would doubtless have taken such measures, as would hav_nsured her from every danger: But Antonia was not destined to be s_ortunate. The day on which She sent her letter to the Palace de las Cisterna_as that following Lorenzo's departure from Madrid. The Marquis was in th_irst paroxysms of despair at the conviction that Agnes was indeed no more: H_as delirious, and his life being in danger, no one was suffered to approac_im. Flora was informed that He was incapable of attending to Letters, an_hat probably a few hours would decide his fate. With this unsatisfactor_nswer She was obliged to return to her Mistress, who now found hersel_lunged into greater difficulties than ever.
Flora and Dame Jacintha exerted themselves to console her. The Latter begge_er to make herself easy, for that as long as She chose to stay with her, Sh_ould treat her like her own Child. Antonia, finding that the good Woman ha_aken a real affection for her, was somewhat comforted by thinking that Sh_ad at least one Friend in the World. A Letter was now brought to her, directed to Elvira. She recognized Leonella's writing, and opening it wit_oy, found a detailed account of her Aunt's adventures at Cordova. Sh_nformed her Sister that She had recovered her Legacy, had lost her heart, an_ad received in exchange that of the most amiable of Apothecaries, past, present, and to come. She added that She should be at Madrid on the Tuesda_ight, and meant to have the pleasure of presenting her Caro Sposo in form.
Though her nuptials were far from pleasing Antonia, Leonella's speedy retur_ave her Niece much delight. She rejoiced in thinking that She should onc_ore be under a Relation's care. She could not but judge it to be highl_mproper, for a young Woman to be living among absolute Strangers, with no on_o regulate her conduct, or protect her from the insults to which, in he_efenceless situation, She was exposed. She therefore looked forward wit_mpatience to the Tuesday night.
It arrived. Antonia listened anxiously to the Carriages, as they rolled alon_he Street. None of them stopped, and it grew late without Leonella'_ppearing. Still, Antonia resolved to sit up till her Aunt's arrival, and i_pite of all her remonstrances, Dame Jacintha and Flora insisted upon doin_he same. The hours passed on slow and tediously. Lorenzo's departure fro_adrid had put a stop to the nightly Serenades: She hoped in vain to hear th_sual sound of Guitars beneath her window. She took up her own, and struck _ew chords: But Music that evening had lost its charms for her, and She soo_eplaced the Instrument in its case. She seated herself at her embroider_rame, but nothing went right: The silks were missing, the thread snappe_very moment, and the needles were so expert at falling that they seemed to b_nimated. At length a flake of wax fell from the Taper which stood near he_pon a favourite wreath of Violets: This compleatly discomposed her; She thre_own her needle, and quitted the frame. It was decreed that for that nigh_othing should have the power of amusing her. She was the prey of Ennui, an_mployed herself in making fruitless wishes for the arrival of her Aunt.
As She walked with a listless air up and down the chamber, the Door caught he_ye conducting to that which had been her Mother's. She remembered tha_lvira's little Library was arranged there, and thought that She migh_ossibly find in it some Book to amuse her till Leonella should arrive.
Accordingly She took her Taper from the table, passed through the littl_loset, and entered the adjoining apartment. As She looked around her, th_ight of this room brought to her recollection a thousand painful ideas. I_as the first time of her entering it since her Mother's death. The tota_ilence prevailing through the chamber, the Bed despoiled of its furniture, the cheerless hearth where stood an extinguished Lamp, and a few dying Plant_n the window which, since Elvira's loss, had been neglected, inspired Antoni_ith a melancholy awe. The gloom of night gave strength to this sensation. Sh_laced her light upon the Table, and sank into a large chair, in which She ha_een her Mother seated a thousand and a thousand times. She was never to se_er seated there again! Tears unbidden streamed down her cheek, and Sh_bandoned herself to the sadness which grew deeper with every moment.
Ashamed of her weakness, She at length rose from her seat: She proceeded t_eek for what had brought her to this melancholy scene. The small collectio_f Books was arranged upon several shelves in order. Antonia examined the_ithout finding any thing likely to interest her, till She put her hand upon _olume of old Spanish Ballads. She read a few Stanzas of one of them: The_xcited her curiosity. She took down the Book, and seated herself to peruse i_ith more ease. She trimmed the Taper, which now drew towards its end, an_hen read the following Ballad.
**ALONZO THE BRAVE, AND FAIR IMOGINE**
A Warrior so bold, and a Virgin so bright Conversed, as They sat on the green: They gazed on each other with tender delight; Alonzo the Brave was the name o_he Knight, The Maid's was the Fair Imogine.
'And Oh!' said the Youth, 'since to-morrow I go To fight in a far distan_and, Your tears for my absence soon leaving to flow, Some Other will cour_ou, and you will bestow On a wealthier Suitor your hand.'
'Oh! hush these suspicions,' Fair Imogine said, 'Offensive to Love and to me!
For if ye be living, or if ye be dead, I swear by the Virgin, that none i_our stead Shall Husband of Imogine be.
'If e'er I by lust or by wealth led aside Forget my Alonzo the Brave, Go_rant, that to punish my falsehood and pride Your Ghost at the Marriage ma_it by my side, May tax me with perjury, claim me as Bride, And bear me awa_o the Grave!'
To Palestine hastened the Hero so bold; His Love, She lamented him sore: Bu_carce had a twelve-month elapsed, when behold, A Baron all covered wit_ewels and gold Arrived at Fair Imogine's door.
His treasure, his presents, his spacious domain Soon made her untrue to he_ows: He dazzled her eyes; He bewildered her brain; He caught her affection_o light and so vain, And carried her home as his Spouse.
And now had the Marriage been blest by the Priest; The revelry now was begun: The Tables, they groaned with the weightof the Feast; Nor yet had the laughte_nd merriment ceased, When the Bell of the Castle told,—'One!'
Then first with amazement Fair Imogine found That a Stranger was placed by he_ide: His air was terrific; He uttered no sound; He spoke not, He moved not, He looked not around, But earnestly gazed on the Bride.
His vizor was closed, and gigantic his height; His armour was sable to view: All pleasure and laughter were hushed at his sight; The Dogs as They eyed hi_rew back in affright, The Lights in the chamber burned blue!
His presence all bosoms appeared to dismay; The Guests sat in silence an_ear. At length spoke the Bride, while She trembled; 'I pray, Sir Knight, tha_our Helmet aside you would lay, And deign to partake of our chear.'
The Lady is silent: The Stranger complies. His vizor lie slowly unclosed: Oh!
God! what a sight met Fair Imogine's eyes! What words can express her disma_nd surprize, When a Skeleton's head was exposed.
All present then uttered a terrified shout; All turned with disgust from th_cene. The worms, They crept in, and the worms, They crept out, And sporte_is eyes and his temples about, While the Spectre addressed Imogine.
'Behold me, Thou false one! Behold me!' He cried; 'Remember Alonzo the Brave!
God grants, that to punish thy falsehood and pride My Ghost at thy marriag_hould sit by thy side, Should tax thee with perjury, claim thee as Bride An_ear thee away to the Grave!'
Thus saying, his arms round the Lady He wound, While loudly She shrieked i_ismay; Then sank with his prey through the wide-yawning ground: Nor eve_gain was Fair Imogine found, Or the Spectre who bore her away.
Not long lived the Baron; and none since that time To inhabit the Castl_resume: For Chronicles tell, that by order sublime There Imogine suffers th_ain of her crime, And mourns her deplorable doom.
At midnight four times in each year does her Spright When Mortals in slumbe_re bound, Arrayed in her bridal apparel of white, Appear in the Hall with th_keleton-Knight, And shriek, as He whirls her around.
While They drink out of skulls newly torn from the grave, Dancing round the_he Spectres are seen: Their liquor is blood, and this horrible Stave The_owl.—'To the health of Alonzo the Brave, And his Consort, the False Imogine!'
The perusal of this story was ill-calculated to dispel Antonia's melancholy.
She had naturally a strong inclination to the marvellous; and her Nurse, wh_elieved firmly in Apparitions, had related to her when an Infant so man_orrible adventures of this kind, that all Elvira's attempts had failed t_radicate their impressions from her Daughter's mind. Antonia still nourishe_ superstitious prejudice in her bosom: She was often susceptible of terror_hich, when She discovered their natural and insignificant cause, made he_lush at her own weakness. With such a turn of mind, the adventure which Sh_ad just been reading sufficed to give her apprehensions the alarm. The hou_nd the scene combined to authorize them. It was the dead of night: She wa_lone, and in the chamber once occupied by her deceased Mother. The weathe_as comfortless and stormy: The wind howled around the House, the door_attled in their frames, and the heavy rain pattered against the windows. N_ther sound was heard. The Taper, now burnt down to the socket, sometime_laring upwards shot a gleam of light through the room, then sinking agai_eemed upon the point of expiring. Antonia's heart throbbed with agitation: Her eyes wandered fearfully over the objects around her, as the tremblin_lame illuminated them at intervals. She attempted to rise from her seat; Bu_er limbs trembled so violently that She was unable to proceed. She the_alled Flora, who was in a room at no great distance: But agitation choake_er voice, and her cries died away in hollow murmurs.
She passed some minutes in this situation, after which her terrors began t_iminish. She strove to recover herself, and acquire strength enough to qui_he room: Suddenly She fancied, that She heard a low sigh drawn near her. Thi_dea brought back her former weakness. She had already raised herself from he_eat, and was on the point of taking the Lamp from the Table. The imaginar_oise stopped her: She drew back her hand, and supported herself upon the bac_f a Chair. She listened anxiously, but nothing more was heard.
'Gracious God!' She said to herself; 'What could be that sound? Was _eceived, or did I really hear it?'
Her reflections were interrupted by a noise at the door scarcely audible: I_eemed as if somebody was whispering. Antonia's alarm increased: Yet the Bol_he knew to be fastened, and this idea in some degree reassured her. Presentl_he Latch was lifted up softly, and the Door moved with caution backwards an_orwards. Excess of terror now supplied Antonia with that strength, of whic_he had till then been deprived. She started from her place and made toward_he Closet door, whence She might soon have reached the chamber where Sh_xpected to find Flora and Dame Jacintha. Scarcely had She reached the middl_f the room when the Latch was lifted up a second time. An involuntar_ovement obliged her to turn her head. Slowly and gradually the Door turne_pon its hinges, and standing upon the Threshold She beheld a tall thi_igure, wrapped in a white shroud which covered it from head to foot.
This vision arrested her feet: She remained as if petrified in the middle o_he apartment. The Stranger with measured and solemn steps drew near th_able. The dying Taper darted a blue and melancholy flame as the Figur_dvanced towards it. Over the Table was fixed a small Clock; The hand of i_as upon the stroke of three. The Figure stopped opposite to the Clock: I_aised its right arm, and pointed to the hour, at the same time lookin_arnestly upon Antonia, who waited for the conclusion of this scene, motionless and silent.
The figure remained in this posture for some moments. The clock struck. Whe_he sound had ceased, the Stranger advanced yet a few steps nearer Antonia.
'Yet three days,' said a voice faint, hollow, and sepulchral; 'Yet three days, and we meet again!'
Antonia shuddered at the words.
'We meet again?' She pronounced at length with difficulty: 'Where shall w_eet? Whom shall I meet?'
The figure pointed to the ground with one hand, and with the other raised th_inen which covered its face.
'Almighty God! My Mother!'
Antonia shrieked, and fell lifeless upon the floor.
Dame Jacintha who was at work in a neighbouring chamber, was alarmed by th_ry: Flora was just gone down stairs to fetch fresh oil for the Lamp, by whic_hey had been sitting. Jacintha therefore hastened alone to Antonia'_ssistance, and great was her amazement to find her extended upon the floor.
She raised her in her arms, conveyed her to her apartment, and placed her upo_he Bed still senseless. She then proceeded to bathe her temples, chafe he_ands, and use all possible means of bringing her to herself. With som_ifficulty She succeeded. Antonia opened her eyes, and looked round he_ildly.
'Where is She?' She cried in a trembling voice; 'Is She gone? Am I safe? Spea_o me! Comfort me! Oh! speak to me for God's sake!'
'Safe from whom, my Child?' replied the astonished Jacintha; 'What alarms you?
Of whom are you afraid?'
'In three days! She told me that we should meet in three days! I heard her sa_t! I saw her, Jacintha, I saw her but this moment!'
She threw herself upon Jacintha's bosom.
'You saw her? Saw whom?'
'My Mother's Ghost!'
'Christ Jesus!' cried Jacintha, and starting from the Bed, let fall Antoni_pon the pillow, and fled in consternation out of the room.
As She hastened down stairs, She met Flora ascending them.
'Go to your Mistress, Flora,' said She; 'Here are rare doings! Oh! I am th_ost unfortunate Woman alive! My House is filled with Ghosts and dead Bodies, and the Lord knows what besides; Yet I am sure, nobody likes such company les_han I do. But go your way to Donna Antonia, Flora, and let me go mine.'
Thus saying, She continued her course to the Street door, which She opened, and without allowing herself time to throw on her veil, She made the best o_er way to the Capuchin Abbey. In the meanwhile, Flora hastened to her Lady'_hamber, equally surprized and alarmed at Jacintha's consternation. She foun_ntonia lying upon the bed insensible. She used the same means for he_ecovery that Jacintha had already employed; But finding that her Mistres_nly recovered from one fit to fall into another, She sent in all haste for _hysician. While expecting his arrival, She undrest Antonia, and conveyed he_o Bed.
Heedless of the storm, terrified almost out of her senses, Jacintha ra_hrough the Streets, and stopped not till She reached the Gate of the Abbey.
She rang loudly at the bell, and as soon as the Porter appeared, She desire_ermission to speak to the Superior. Ambrosio was then conferring with Matild_pon the means of procuring access to Antonia. The cause of Elvira's deat_emaining unknown, He was convinced that crimes were not so swiftly followe_y punishment, as his Instructors the Monks had taught him, and as till the_e had himself believed. This persuasion made him resolve upon Antonia's ruin, for the enjoyment of whose person dangers and difficulties only seemed to hav_ncreased his passion. The Monk had already made one attempt to gain admissio_o her presence; But Flora had refused him in such a manner as to convince hi_hat all future endeavours must be vain. Elvira had confided her suspicions t_hat trusty Servant: She had desired her never to leave Ambrosio alone wit_er Daughter, and if possible to prevent their meeting altogether. Flor_romised to obey her, and had executed her orders to the very letter.
Ambrosio's visit had been rejected that morning, though Antonia was ignoran_f it. He saw that to obtain a sight of his Mistress by open means was out o_he question; and both Himself and Matilda had consumed the night, i_ndeavouring to invent some plan, whose event might be more successful. Suc_as their employment, when a Lay-Brother entered the Abbot's Cell, an_nformed him that a Woman calling herself Jacintha Zuniga requested audienc_or a few minutes.
Ambrosio was by no means disposed to grant the petition of his Visitor. H_efused it positively, and bad the Lay-Brother tell the Stranger to return th_ext day. Matilda interrupted him.
'See this Woman,' said She in a low voice; 'I have my reasons.'
The Abbot obeyed her, and signified that He would go to the Parlou_mmediately. With this answer the Lay-Brother withdrew. As soon as they wer_lone Ambrosio enquired why Matilda wished him to see this Jacintha.
'She is Antonia's Hostess,' replied Matilda; 'She may possibly be of use t_ou: but let us examine her, and learn what brings her hither.'
They proceeded together to the Parlour, where Jacintha was already waiting fo_he Abbot. She had conceived a great opinion of his piety and virtue; an_upposing him to have much influence over the Devil, thought that it must b_n easy matter for him to lay Elvira's Ghost in the Red Sea. Filled with thi_ersuasion She had hastened to the Abbey. As soon as She saw the Monk ente_he Parlour, She dropped upon her knees, and began her story as follows.
'Oh! Reverend Father! Such an accident! Such an adventure! I know not wha_ourse to take, and unless you can help me, I shall certainly go distracted.
Well, to be sure, never was Woman so unfortunate, as myself! All in my powe_o keep clear of such abomination have I done, and yet that all is too little.
What signifies my telling my beads four times a day, and observing every fas_rescribed by the Calendar? What signifies my having made three Pilgrimages t_t. James of Compostella, and purchased as many pardons from the Pope as woul_uy off Cain's punishment? Nothing prospers with me! All goes wrong, and Go_nly knows, whether any thing will ever go right again! Why now, be you_oliness the Judge. My Lodger dies in convulsions; Out of pure kindness I bur_er at my own expence; (Not that She is any Relation of mine, or that I shal_e benefited a single pistole by her death: I got nothing by it, and therefor_ou know, reverend Father, that her living or dying was just the same to me.
But that is nothing to the purpose; To return to what I was saying,) I too_are of her funeral, had every thing performed decently and properly, and pu_yself to expence enough, God knows! And how do you think the Lady repays m_or my kindness? Why truly by refusing to sleep quietly in her comfortabl_eal Coffin, as a peaceable well-disposed Spirit ought to do, and coming t_lague me, who never wish to set eyes on her again. Forsooth, it well become_er to go racketing about my House at midnight, popping into her Daughter'_oom through the Keyhole, and frightening the poor Child out of her wits!
Though She be a Ghost, She might be more civil than to bolt into a Person'_ouse, who likes her company so little. But as for me, reverend Father, th_lain state of the case is this: If She walks into my House, I must walk ou_f it, for I cannot abide such Visitors, not I! Thus you see, your Sanctity, that without your assistance I am ruined and undone for ever. I shall b_bliged to quit my House; Nobody will take it, when 'tis known that She haunt_t, and then I shall find myself in a fine situation! Miserable Woman that _m! What shall I do! What will become of me!'
Here She wept bitterly, wrung her hands, and begged to know the Abbot'_pinion of her case.
'In truth, good Woman,' replied He, 'It will be difficult for me to reliev_ou without knowing what is the matter with you. You have forgotten to tell m_hat has happened, and what it is you want.'
'Let me die' cried Jacintha, 'but your Sanctity is in the right! This then i_he fact stated briefly. A lodger of mine is lately dead, a very good sort o_oman that I must needs say for her as far as my knowledge of her went, thoug_hat was not a great way:
She kept me too much at a distance; for indeed She was given to be upon th_igh ropes, and whenever I ventured to speak to her, She had a look with he_hich always made me feel a little queerish, God forgive me for saying so.
However, though She was more stately than needful, and affected to look dow_pon me (Though if I am well informed, I come of as good Parents as She coul_o for her ears, for her Father was a Shoe-maker at Cordova, and Mine was a_atter at Madrid, aye, and a very creditable Hatter too, let me tell you,) Ye_or all her pride, She was a quiet well-behaved Body, and I never wish to hav_ better Lodger. This makes me wonder the more at her not sleeping quietly i_er Grave: But there is no trusting to people in this world! For my part, _ever saw her do amiss, except on the Friday before her death. To be sure, _as then much scandalized by seeing her eat the wing of a Chicken! ''How, Madona Flora!'' quoth I; (Flora, may it please your Reverence, is the name o_he waiting Maid)—''How, Madona Flora!'' quoth I; ''Does your Mistress ea_lesh upon Fridays? Well! Well! See the event, and then remember that Dam_acintha warned you of it!'' These were my very words, but Alas! I might a_ell have held my tongue! Nobody minded me; and Flora, who is somewhat per_nd snappish, (More is the pity, say I) told me that there was no more harm i_ating a Chicken than the egg from which it came. Nay, She even declared tha_f her Lady added a slice of bacon, She would not be an inch nearer Damnation, God protect us! A poor ignorant sinful soul! I protest to your Holiness, _rembled to hear her utter such blasphemies, and expected every moment to se_he ground open and swallow her up, Chicken and all! For you must know, worshipful Father, that while She talked thus, She held the plate in her hand, on which lay the identical roast Fowl. And a fine Bird it was, that I must sa_or it! Done to a turn, for I superintended the cooking of it myself: It was _ittle Gallician of my own raising, may it please your Holiness, and the fles_as as white as an egg-shell, as indeed Donna Elvira told me herself. ''Dam_acintha,'' said She, very good-humouredly, though to say the truth, She wa_lways very polite to me … . .'
Here Ambrosio's patience failed him. Eager to know Jacintha's business i_hich Antonia seemed to be concerned, He was almost distracted while listenin_o the rambling of this prosing old Woman. He interrupted her, and proteste_hat if She did not immediately tell her story and have done with it, H_hould quit the Parlour, and leave her to get out of her difficulties b_erself. This threat had the desired effect. Jacintha related her business i_s few words as She could manage; But her account was still so prolix tha_mbrosio had need of his patience to bear him to the conclusion.
'And so, your Reverence,' said She, after relating Elvira's death and burial, with all their circumstances; 'And so, your Reverence, upon hearing th_hriek, I put away my work, and away posted I to Donna Antonia's chamber.
Finding nobody there, I past on to the next; But I must own, I was a littl_imorous at going in, for this was the very room where Donna Elvira used t_leep. However, in I went, and sure enough, there lay the young Lady at ful_ength upon the floor, as cold as a stone, and as white as a sheet. I wa_urprized at this, as your Holiness may well suppose; But Oh me! how I shoo_hen I saw a great tall figure at my elbow whose head touched the ceiling! Th_ace was Donna Elvira's, I must confess; But out of its mouth came clouds o_ire, its arms were loaded with heavy chains which it rattled piteously, an_very hair on its head was a Serpent as big as my arm! At this I wa_rightened enough, and began to say my Ave-Maria: But the Ghost interruptin_e uttered three loud groans, and roared out in a terrible voice, ''Oh! Tha_hicken's wing! My poor soul suffers for it!'' As soon as She had said this, the Ground opened, the Spectre sank down, I heard a clap of thunder, and th_oom was filled with a smell of brimstone. When I recovered from my fright, and had brought Donna Antonia to herself, who told me that She had cried ou_pon seeing her Mother's Ghost, (And well might She cry, poor Soul! Had I bee_n her place, I should have cried ten times louder) it directly came into m_ead, that if any one had power to quiet this Spectre, it must be you_everence. So hither I came in all diligence, to beg that you will sprinkle m_ouse with holy water, and lay the Apparition in the Red Sea.'
Ambrosio stared at this strange story, which He could not credit.
'Did Donna Antonia also see the Ghost?' said He.
'As plain as I see you, Reverend Father!'
Ambrosio paused for a moment. Here was an opportunity offered him of gainin_ccess to Antonia, but He hesitated to employ it. The reputation which H_njoyed in Madrid was still dear to him; and since He had lost the reality o_irtue, it appeared as if its semblance was become more valuable. He wa_onscious that publicly to break through the rule never to quit the Abbe_recincts, would derogate much from his supposed austerity. In visitin_lvira, He had always taken care to keep his features concealed from th_omestics. Except by the Lady, her Daughter, and the faithful Flora, He wa_nown in the Family by no other name than that of Father Jerome. Should H_omply with Jacintha's request, and accompany her to her House, He knew tha_he violation of his rule could not be kept a secret. However, his eagernes_o see Antonia obtained the victory: He even hoped, that the singularity o_his adventure would justify him in the eyes of Madrid: But whatever might b_he consequences, He resolved to profit by the opportunity which chance ha_resented to him. An expressive look from Matilda confirmed him in thi_esolution.
'Good Woman,' said He to Jacintha, 'what you tell me is so extraordinary tha_ can scarcely credit your assertions. However, I will comply with you_equest. Tomorrow after Matins you may expect me at your House: I will the_xamine into what I can do for you, and if it is in my power, will free yo_rom this unwelcome Visitor. Now then go home, and peace be with you!'
'Home?' exclaimed Jacintha; 'I go home? Not I by my troth! except under you_rotection, I set no foot of mine within the threshold. God help me, the Ghos_ay meet me upon the Stairs, and whisk me away with her to the devil! Oh! Tha_ had accepted young Melchior Basco's offer! Then I should have had somebod_o protect me; But now I am a lone Woman, and meet with nothing but crosse_nd misfortunes! Thank Heaven, it is not yet too late to repent! There i_imon Gonzalez will have me any day of the week, and if I live till daybreak, I will marry him out of hand: An Husband I will have, that is determined, fo_ow this Ghost is once in my House, I shall be frightened out of my wits t_leep alone. But for God's sake, reverend Father, come with me now. I shal_ave no rest till the House is purified, or the poor young Lady either. Th_ear Girl! She is in a piteous taking: I left her in strong convulsions, and _oubt, She will not easily recover her fright.'
The Friar started, and interrupted her hastily.
'In convulsions, say you? Antonia in convulsions? Lead on, good Woman! _ollow you this moment!'
Jacintha insisted upon his stopping to furnish himself with the vessel of hol_ater: With this request He complied. Thinking herself safe under hi_rotection should a Legion of Ghosts attack her, the old Woman returned th_onk a profusion of thanks, and they departed together for the Strada di Sa_ago.
So strong an impression had the Spectre made upon Antonia, that for the firs_wo or three hours the Physician declared her life to be in danger. The fit_t length becoming less frequent induced him to alter his opinion. He sai_hat to keep her quiet was all that was necessary; and He ordered a medicin_o be prepared which would tranquillize her nerves, and procure her tha_epose which at present She much wanted. The sight of Ambrosio, who no_ppeared with Jacintha at her Bedside, contributed essentially to compose he_uffled spirits. Elvira had not sufficiently explained herself upon the natur_f his designs, to make a Girl so ignorant of the world as her Daughter awar_ow dangerous was his acquaintance. At this moment, when penetrated wit_orror at the scene which had just past, and dreading to contemplate th_host's prediction, her mind had need of all the succours of friendship an_eligion, Antonia regarded the Abbot with an eye doubly partial. That stron_repossession in his favour still existed which She had felt for him at firs_ight: She fancied, yet knew not wherefore, that his presence was a safeguar_o her from every danger, insult, or misfortune.
She thanked him gratefully for his visit, and related to him the adventure, which had alarmed her so seriously.
The Abbot strove to reassure her, and convince her that the whole had been _eception of her overheated fancy. The solitude in which She had passed th_vening, the gloom of night, the Book which She had been reading, and the Roo_n which She sat, were all calculated to place before her such a vision. H_reated the idea of Ghosts with ridicule, and produced strong arguments t_rove the fallacy of such a system. His conversation tranquillized an_omforted her, but did not convince her. She could not believe that th_pectre had been a mere creature of her imagination; Every circumstance wa_mpressed upon her mind too forcibly, to permit her flattering herself wit_uch an idea. She persisted in asserting that She had really seen her Mother'_host, had heard the period of her dissolution announced and declared that Sh_ever should quit her bed alive. Ambrosio advised her against encouragin_hese sentiments, and then quitted her chamber, having promised to repeat hi_isit on the morrow. Antonia received this assurance with every mark of joy: But the Monk easily perceived that He was not equally acceptable to he_ttendant. Flora obeyed Elvira's injunctions with the most scrupulou_bservance. She examined every circumstance with an anxious eye likely in th_east to prejudice her young Mistress, to whom She had been attached for man_ears. She was a Native of Cuba, had followed Elvira to Spain, and loved th_oung Antonia with a Mother's affection. Flora quitted not the room for _oment while the Abbot remained there: She watched his every word, his ever_ook, his every action. He saw that her suspicious eye was always fixed upo_im, and conscious that his designs would not bear inspection so minute, H_elt frequently confused and disconcerted. He was aware that She doubted th_urity of his intentions; that She would never leave him alone with Antonia, and his Mistress defended by the presence of this vigilant Observer, H_espaired of finding the means to gratify his passion.
As He quitted the House, Jacintha met him, and begged that some Masses migh_e sung for the repose of Elvira's soul, which She doubted not was sufferin_n Purgatory. He promised not to forget her request; But He perfectly gaine_he old Woman's heart by engaging to watch during the whole of the approachin_ight in the haunted chamber. Jacintha could find no terms sufficiently stron_o express her gratitude, and the Monk departed loaded with her benedictions.
It was broad day when He returned to the Abbey. His first care was t_ommunicate what had past to his Confident. He felt too sincere a passion fo_ntonia to have heard unmoved the prediction of her speedy death, and H_huddered at the idea of losing an object so dear to him. Upon this hea_atilda reassured him. She confirmed the arguments which Himself had alread_sed: She declared Antonia to have been deceived by the wandering of he_rain, by the Spleen which opprest her at the moment, and by the natural tur_f her mind to superstition, and the marvellous. As to Jacintha's account, th_bsurdity refuted itself; The Abbot hesitated not to believe that She ha_abricated the whole story, either confused by terror, or hoping to make hi_omply more readily with her request. Having overruled the Monk'_pprehensions, Matilda continued thus.
'The prediction and the Ghost are equally false; But it must be your care, Ambrosio, to verify the first. Antonia within three days must indeed be dea_o the world; But She must live for you.
Her present illness, and this fancy which She has taken into her head, wil_olour a plan which I have long meditated, but which was impracticable withou_our procuring access to Antonia. She shall be yours, not for a single night, but for ever. All the vigilance of her Duenna shall not avail her: You shal_iot unrestrained in the charms of your Mistress. This very day must th_cheme be put in execution, for you have no time to lose. The Nephew of th_uke of Medina Celi prepares to demand Antonia for his Bride: In a few day_he will be removed to the Palace of her Relation, the Marquis de la_isternas, and there She will be secure from your attempts. Thus during you_bsence have I been informed by my Spies, who are ever employed in bringing m_ntelligence for your service. Now then listen to me. There is a juic_xtracted from certain herbs, known but to few, which brings on the Person wh_rinks it the exact image of Death. Let this be administered to Antonia: Yo_ay easily find means to pour a few drops into her medicine. The effect wil_e throwing her into strong convulsions for an hour: After which her bloo_ill gradually cease to flow, and heart to beat; A mortal paleness will sprea_tself over her features, and She will appear a Corse to every eye. She has n_riends about her: You may charge yourself unsuspected with th_uperintendence of her funeral, and cause her to be buried in the Vaults o_t. Clare. Their solitude and easy access render these Caverns favourable t_our designs. Give Antonia the soporific draught this Evening: Eight and fort_ours after She has drank it, Life will revive to her bosom. She will then b_bsolutely in your power: She will find all resistance unavailing, an_ecessity will compel her to receive you in her arms.'
'Antonia will be in my power!' exclaimed the Monk; 'Matilda, you transport me!
At length then, happiness will be mine, and that happiness will be Matilda'_ift, will be the gift of friendship!
I shall clasp Antonia in my arms, far from every prying eye, from ever_ormenting Intruder! I shall sigh out my soul upon her bosom; Shall teach he_oung heart the first rudiments of pleasure, and revel uncontrouled in th_ndless variety of her charms! And shall this delight indeed by mine? Shall _ive the reins to my desires, and gratify every wild tumultuous wish? Oh!
Matilda, how can I express to you my gratitude?'
'By profiting by my counsels. Ambrosio, I live but to serve you:
Your interest and happiness are equally mine. Be your person Antonia's, but t_our friendship and your heart I still assert my claim. Contributing to your_orms now my only pleasure. Should my exertions procure the gratification o_our wishes, I shall consider my trouble to be amply repaid. But let us los_o time. The liquor of which I spoke is only to be found in St. Clare'_aboratory. Hasten then to the Prioress; Request of her admission to th_aboratory, and it will not be denied. There is a Closet at the lower end o_he great Room, filled with liquids of different colours and qualities. Th_ottle in question stands by itself upon the third shelf on the left. I_ontains a greenish liquor: Fill a small phial with it when you ar_nobserved, and Antonia is your own.'
The Monk hesitated not to adopt this infamous plan. His desires, but to_iolent before, had acquired fresh vigour from the sight of Antonia. As He sa_y her bedside, accident had discovered to him some of those charms which til_hen had been concealed from him: He found them even more perfect, than hi_rdent imagination had pictured them. Sometimes her white and polished arm wa_isplayed in arranging the pillow: Sometimes a sudden movement discovered par_f her swelling bosom: But whereever the new-found charm presented itself, there rested the Friar's gloting eyes. Scarcely could He master himsel_ufficiently to conceal his desires from Antonia and her vigilant Duenna.
Inflamed by the remembrance of these beauties, He entered into Matilda'_cheme without hesitation.
No sooner were Matins over than He bent his course towards the Convent of St.
Clare: His arrival threw the whole Sisterhood into the utmost amazement. Th_rioress was sensible of the honour done her Convent by his paying it hi_irst visit, and strove to express her gratitude by every possible attention.
He was paraded through the Garden, shown all the reliques of Saints an_artyrs, and treated with as much respect and distinction as had He been th_ope himself. On his part, Ambrosio received the Domina's civilities ver_raciously, and strove to remove her surprize at his having broken through hi_esolution. He stated, that among his penitents, illness prevented many fro_uitting their Houses. These were exactly the People who most needed hi_dvice and the comforts of Religion: Many representations had been made to hi_pon this account, and though highly repugnant to his own wishes, He had foun_t absolutely necessary for the service of heaven to change his determination, and quit his beloved retirement. The Prioress applauded his zeal in hi_rofession and his charity towards Mankind: She declared that Madrid was happ_n possessing a Man so perfect and irreproachable. In such discourse, th_riar at length reached the Laboratory. He found the Closet: The Bottle stoo_n the place which Matilda had described, and the Monk seized an opportunit_o fill his phial unobserved with the soporific liquor. Then having partake_f a Collation in the Refectory, He retired from the Convent pleased with th_uccess of his visit, and leaving the Nuns delighted by the honour conferre_pon them.
He waited till Evening before He took the road to Antonia's dwelling. Jacinth_elcomed him with transport, and besought him not to forget his promise t_ass the night in the haunted Chamber: That promise He now repeated. He foun_ntonia tolerably well, but still harping upon the Ghost's prediction. Flor_oved not from her Lady's Bed, and by symptoms yet stronger than on the forme_ight testified her dislike to the Abbot's presence. Still Ambrosio affecte_ot to observe them. The Physician arrived, while He was conversing wit_ntonia. It was dark already; Lights were called for, and Flora was compelle_o descend for them herself. However, as She left a third Person in the room, and expected to be absent but a few minutes, She believed that She risque_othing in quitting her post. No sooner had She left the room, than Ambrosi_oved towards the Table, on which stood Antonia's medicine: It was placed in _ecess of the window. The Physician seated in an armed-chair, and employed i_uestioning his Patient, paid no attention to the proceedings of the Monk.
Ambrosio seized the opportunity: He drew out the fatal Phial, and let a fe_rops fall into the medicine. He then hastily left the Table, and returned t_he seat which He had quitted. When Flora made her appearance with lights, every thing seemed to be exactly as She had left it.
The Physician declared that Antonia might quit her chamber the next day wit_erfect safety. He recommended her following the same prescription which, o_he night before, had procured her a refreshing sleep: Flora replied that th_raught stood ready upon the Table: He advised the Patient to take it withou_elay, and then retired. Flora poured the medicine into a Cup and presented i_o her Mistress. At that moment Ambrosio's courage failed him. Might no_atilda have deceived him? Might not Jealousy have persuaded her to destro_er Rival, and substitute poison in the room of an opiate? This idea appeare_o reasonable that He was on the point of preventing her from swallowing th_edicine. His resolution was adopted too late: The Cup was already emptied, and Antonia restored it into Flora's hands. No remedy was now to be found: Ambrosio could only expect the moment impatiently, destined to decide upo_ntonia's life or death, upon his own happiness or despair.
Dreading to create suspicion by his stay, or betray himself by his mind'_gitation, He took leave of his Victim, and withdrew from the room. Antoni_arted from him with less cordiality than on the former night. Flora ha_epresented to her Mistress that to admit his visits was to disobey he_other's orders: She described to her his emotion on entering the room, an_he fire which sparkled in his eyes while He gazed upon her. This had escape_ntonia's observation, but not her Attendant's; Who explaining the Monk'_esigns and their probable consequences in terms much clearer than Elvira's, though not quite so delicate, had succeeded in alarming her young Lady, an_ersuading her to treat him more distantly than She had done hitherto. Th_dea of obeying her Mother's will at once determined Antonia. Though Sh_rieved at losing his society, She conquered herself sufficiently to receiv_he Monk with some degree of reserve and coldness. She thanked him wit_espect and gratitude for his former visits, but did not invite his repeatin_hem in future. It now was not the Friar's interest to solicit admission t_er presence, and He took leave of her as if not designing to return. Full_ersuaded that the acquaintance which She dreaded was now at an end, Flora wa_o much worked upon by his easy compliance that She began to doubt the justic_f her suspicions. As She lighted him down Stairs, She thanked him for havin_ndeavoured to root out from Antonia's mind her superstitious terrors of th_pectre's prediction: She added, that as He seemed interested in Donn_ntonia's welfare, should any change take place in her situation, She would b_areful to let him know it. The Monk in replying took pains to raise hi_oice, hoping that Jacintha would hear it. In this He succeeded; As He reache_he foot of the Stairs with his Conductress, the Landlady failed not to mak_er appearance.
'Why surely you are not going away, reverend Father?' cried She; 'Did you no_romise to pass the night in the haunted Chamber? Christ Jesus! I shall b_eft alone with the Ghost, and a fine pickle I shall be in by morning! Do al_ could, say all I could, that obstinate old Brute, Simon Gonzalez, refused t_arry me today; And before tomorrow comes, I suppose, I shall be torn t_ieces, by the Ghosts, and Goblins, and Devils, and what not! For God's sake, your Holiness, do not leave me in such a woeful condition! On my bended knee_ beseech you to keep your promise: Watch this night in the haunted chamber; Lay the Apparition in the Red Sea, and Jacintha remembers you in her prayer_o the last day of her existence!'
This request Ambrosio expected and desired; Yet He affected to rais_bjections, and to seem unwilling to keep his word. He told Jacintha that th_host existed nowhere but in her own brain, and that her insisting upon hi_taying all night in the House was ridiculous and useless. Jacintha wa_bstinate: She was not to be convinced, and pressed him so urgently not t_eave her a prey to the Devil, that at length He granted her request. All thi_how of resistance imposed not upon Flora, who was naturally of a suspiciou_emper. She suspected the Monk to be acting a part very contrary to his ow_nclinations, and that He wished for no better than to remain where He was.
She even went so far as to believe that Jacintha was in his interest; and th_oor old Woman was immediately set down, as no better than a Procuress. Whil_he applauded herself for having penetrated into this plot against her Lady'_onour, She resolved in secret to render it fruitless.
'So then,' said She to the Abbot with a look half-satirical and hal_ndignant; 'So then you mean to stay here tonight? Do so, in God's name!
Nobody will prevent you. Sit up to watch for the Ghost's arrival: I shall si_p too, and the Lord grant that I may see nothing worse than a Ghost! I qui_ot Donna Antonia's Bedside during this blessed night: Let me see any one dar_o enter the room, and be He mortal or immortal, be He Ghost, Devil, or Man, _arrant his repenting that ever He crossed the threshold!'
This hint was sufficiently strong, and Ambrosio understood its meaning. Bu_nstead of showing that He perceived her suspicions; He replied mildly that H_pproved the Duenna's precautions, and advised her to persevere in he_ntention. This, She assured him faithfully that He might depend upon he_oing. Jacintha then conducted him into the chamber where the Ghost ha_ppeared, and Flora returned to her Lady's.
Jacintha opened the door of the haunted room with a trembling hand: Sh_entured to peep in; But the wealth of India would not have tempted her t_ross the threshold. She gave the Taper to the Monk, wished him well throug_he adventure, and hastened to be gone. Ambrosio entered. He bolted the door, placed the light upon the Table, and seated himself in the Chair which on th_ormer night had sustained Antonia. In spite of Matilda's assurances that th_pectre was a mere creation of fancy, his mind was impressed with a certai_ysterious horror. He in vain endeavoured to shake it off. The silence of th_ight, the story of the Apparition, the chamber wainscotted with dark oa_annells, the recollection which it brought with it of the murdered Elvira, and his incertitude respecting the nature of the drops given by him t_ntonia, made him feel uneasy at his present situation. But He thought muc_ess of the Spectre, than of the poison. Should He have destroyed the onl_bject which rendered life dear to him; Should the Ghost's prediction prov_rue; Should Antonia in three days be no more, and He the wretched cause o_er death … … The supposition was too horrible to dwell upon. He drove awa_hese dreadful images, and as often they presented themselves again befor_im. Matilda had assured him that the effects of the Opiate would be speedy.
He listened with fear, yet with eagerness, expecting to hear some disturbanc_n the adjoining chamber. All was still silent. He concluded that the drop_ad not begun to operate. Great was the stake, for which He now played: _oment would suffice to decide upon his misery or happiness. Matilda ha_aught him the means of ascertaining that life was not extinct for ever: Upo_his assay depended all his hopes. With every instant his impatienc_edoubled; His terrors grew more lively, his anxiety more awake. Unable t_ear this state of incertitude, He endeavoured to divert it by substitutin_he thoughts of Others to his own. The Books, as was before mentioned, wer_anged upon shelves near the Table: This stood exactly opposite to the Bed, which was placed in an Alcove near the Closet door. Ambrosio took down _olume, and seated himself by the Table: But his attention wandered from th_ages before him. Antonia's image and that of the murdered Elvira persisted t_orce themselves before his imagination. Still He continued to read, thoug_is eyes ran over the characters without his mind being conscious of thei_mport. Such was his occupation, when He fancied that He heard a footstep. H_urned his head, but nobody was to be seen.
He resumed his Book; But in a few minutes after the same sound was repeated, and followed by a rustling noise close behind him. He now started from hi_eat, and looking round him, perceived the Closet door standing half-unclosed.
On his first entering the room He had tried to open it, but found it bolted o_he inside.
'How is this?' said He to himself; 'How comes this door unfastened?'
He advanced towards it: He pushed it open, and looked into the closet: No on_as there. While He stood irresolute, He thought that He distinguished _roaning in the adjacent chamber: It was Antonia's, and He supposed that th_rops began to take effect: But upon listening more attentively, He found th_oise to be caused by Jacintha, who had fallen asleep by the Lady's Bedside, and was snoring most lustily. Ambrosio drew back, and returned to the othe_oom, musing upon the sudden opening of the Closet door, for which He strov_n vain to account.
He paced the chamber up and down in silence. At length He stopped, and the Be_ttracted his attention. The curtain of the Recess was but half-drawn. H_ighed involuntarily.
'That Bed,' said He in a low voice, 'That Bed was Elvira's! There has She pas_any a quiet night, for She was good and innocent. How sound must have bee_er sleep! And yet now She sleeps sounder! Does She indeed sleep? Oh! Go_rant that She may! What if She rose from her Grave at this sad and silen_our? What if She broke the bonds of the Tomb, and glided angrily before m_lasted eyes? Oh! I never could support the sight! Again to see her for_istorted by dying agonies, her blood-swollen veins, her livid countenance, her eyes bursting from their sockets with pain! To hear her speak of futur_unishment, menace me with Heaven's vengeance, tax me with the crimes I hav_ommitted, with those I am going to commit … . . Great God! What is that?'
As He uttered these words, his eyes which were fixed upon the Bed, saw th_urtain shaken gently backwards and forwards. The Apparition was recalled t_is mind, and He almost fancied that He beheld Elvira's visionary for_eclining upon the Bed. A few moments consideration sufficed to reassure him.
'It was only the wind,' said He, recovering himself.
Again He paced the chamber; But an involuntary movement of awe and inquietud_onstantly led his eye towards the Alcove. He drew near it with irresolution.
He paused before He ascended the few steps which led to it. He put out hi_and thrice to remove the curtain, and as often drew it back.
'Absurd terrors!' He cried at length, ashamed of his own weakness——
Hastily he mounted the steps; When a Figure drest in white started from th_lcove, and gliding by him, made with precipitation towards the Closet.
Madness and despair now supplied the Monk with that courage, of which He ha_ill then been destitute. He flew down the steps, pursued the Apparition, an_ttempted to grasp it.
'Ghost, or Devil, I hold you!' He exclaimed, and seized the Spectre by th_rm.
'Oh! Christ Jesus!' cried a shrill voice; 'Holy Father, how you gripe me! _rotest that I meant no harm!'
This address, as well as the arm which He held, convinced the Abbot that th_upposed Ghost was substantial flesh and blood. He drew the Intruder toward_he Table, and holding up the light, discovered the features of … … Madon_lora!
Incensed at having been betrayed by this trifling cause into fears s_idiculous, He asked her sternly, what business had brought her to tha_hamber. Flora, ashamed at being found out, and terrified at the severity o_mbrosio's looks, fell upon her knees, and promised to make a full confession.
'I protest, reverend Father,' said She, 'that I am quite grieved at havin_isturbed you: Nothing was further from my intention. I meant to get out o_he room as quietly as I got in; and had you been ignorant that I watched you, you know, it would have been the same thing as if I had not watched you a_ll. To be sure, I did very wrong in being a Spy upon you, that I cannot deny; But Lord! your Reverence, how can a poor weak Woman resist curiosity? Mine wa_o strong to know what you were doing, that I could not but try to get _ittle peep, without any body knowing any thing about it. So with that I lef_ld Dame Jacintha sitting by my Lady's Bed, and I ventured to steal into th_loset. Being unwilling to interrupt you, I contented myself at first wit_utting my eye to the Keyhole; But as I could see nothing by this means, _ndrew the bolt, and while your back was turned to the Alcove, I whipt me i_oftly and silently. Here I lay snug behind the curtain, till your Reverenc_ound me out, and seized me ere I had time to regain the Closet door. This i_he whole truth, I assure you, Holy Father, and I beg your pardon a thousan_imes for my impertinence.'
During this speech the Abbot had time to recollect himself: He was satisfie_ith reading the penitent Spy a lecture upon the dangers of curiosity, and th_eanness of the action in which She had been just discovered. Flora declare_erself fully persuaded that She had done wrong; She promised never to b_uilty of the same fault again, and was retiring very humble and contrite t_ntonia's chamber, when the Closet door was suddenly thrown open, and i_ushed Jacintha pale and out of breath.
'Oh! Father! Father!' She cried in a voice almost choaked with terror; 'Wha_hall I do! What shall I do! Here is a fine piece of work! Nothing bu_isfortunes! Nothing but dead people, and dying people! Oh! I shall g_istracted! I shall go distracted!'
'Speak! Speak!' cried Flora and the Monk at the same time; 'What has happened?
What is the matter?'
'Oh! I shall have another Corse in my House! Some Witch has certainly cast _pell upon it, upon me, and upon all about me! Poor Donna Antonia! There Sh_ies in just such convulsions, as killed her Mother! The Ghost told her true!
I am sure, the Ghost has told her true!'
Flora ran, or rather flew to her Lady's chamber: Ambrosio followed her, hi_osom trembling with hope and apprehension. They found Antonia as Jacintha ha_escribed, torn by racking convulsions from which they in vain endeavoured t_elieve her. The Monk dispatched Jacintha to the Abbey in all haste, an_ommissioned her to bring Father Pablos back with her, without losing _oment.
'I will go for him,' replied Jacintha, 'and tell him to come hither; But as t_ringing him myself, I shall do no such thing. I am sure that the House i_ewitched, and burn me if ever I set foot in it again.'
With this resolution She set out for the Monastery, and delivered to Fathe_ablos the Abbot's orders. She then betook herself to the House of old Simo_onzalez, whom She resolved never to quit, till She had made him her Husband, and his dwelling her own.
Father Pablos had no sooner beheld Antonia, than He pronounced her incurable.
The convulsions continued for an hour: During that time her agonies were muc_ilder than those which her groans created in the Abbot's heart. Her ever_ang seemed a dagger in his bosom, and He cursed himself a thousand times fo_aving adopted so barbarous a project. The hour being expired, by degrees th_its became less frequent, and Antonia less agitated. She felt that he_issolution was approaching, and that nothing could save her.
'Worthy Ambrosio,' She said in a feeble voice, while She pressed his hand t_er lips; 'I am now at liberty to express, how grateful is my heart for you_ttention and kindness. I am upon the bed of death; Yet an hour, and I shal_e no more. I may therefore acknowledge without restraint, that to relinquis_our society was very painful to me: But such was the will of a Parent, and _ared not disobey. I die without repugnance: There are few, who will lament m_eaving them; There are few, whom I lament to leave. Among those few, I lamen_or none more than for yourself; But we shall meet again, Ambrosio! We shal_ne day meet in heaven: There shall our friendship be renewed, and my Mothe_hall view it with pleasure!'
She paused. The Abbot shuddered when She mentioned Elvira: Antonia imputed hi_motion to pity and concern for her.
'You are grieved for me, Father,' She continued; 'Ah! sigh not for my loss. _ave no crimes to repent, at least none of which I am conscious, and I restor_y soul without fear to him from whom I received it. I have but few request_o make: Yet let me hope that what few I have shall be granted. Let a solem_ass be said for my soul's repose, and another for that of my beloved Mother.
Not that I doubt her resting in her Grave: I am now convinced that my reaso_andered, and the falsehood of the Ghost's prediction is sufficient to prov_y error. But every one has some failing: My Mother may have had hers, thoug_ knew them not: I therefore wish a Mass to be celebrated for her repose, an_he expence may be defrayed by the little wealth of which I am possessed.
Whatever may then remain, I bequeath to my Aunt Leonella. When I am dead, le_he Marquis de las Cisternas know that his Brother's unhappy family can n_onger importune him. But disappointment makes me unjust: They tell me that H_s ill, and perhaps had it been in his power, He wished to have protected me.
Tell him then, Father, only that I am dead, and that if He had any faults t_e, I forgave him from my heart. This done, I have nothing more to ask for, than your prayers: Promise to remember my requests, and I shall resign my lif_ithout a pang or sorrow.'
Ambrosio engaged to comply with her desires, and proceeded to give he_bsolution. Every moment announced the approach of Antonia's fate: Her sigh_ailed; Her heart beat sluggishly; Her fingers stiffened, and grew cold, an_t two in the morning She expired without a groan. As soon as the breath ha_orsaken her body, Father Pablos retired, sincerely affected at the melanchol_cene. On her part, Flora gave way to the most unbridled sorrow.
Far different concerns employed Ambrosio: He sought for the pulse whos_hrobbing, so Matilda had assured him, would prove Antonia's death bu_emporal. He found it; He pressed it; It palpitated beneath his hand, and hi_eart was filled with ecstacy. However, He carefully concealed hi_atisfaction at the success of his plan. He assumed a melancholy air, an_ddressing himself to Flora, warned her against abandoning herself t_ruitless sorrow. Her tears were too sincere to permit her listening to hi_ounsels, and She continued to weep unceasingly.
The Friar withdrew, first promising to give orders himself about the Funeral, which, out of consideration for Jacintha as He pretended, should take plac_ith all expedition. Plunged in grief for the loss of her beloved Mistress, Flora scarcely attended to what He said. Ambrosio hastened to command th_urial. He obtained permission from the Prioress, that the Corse should b_eposited in St. Clare's Sepulchre: and on the Friday Morning, every prope_nd needful ceremony being performed, Antonia's body was committed to th_omb.
On the same day Leonella arrived at Madrid, intending to present her youn_usband to Elvira. Various circumstances had obliged her to defer her journe_rom Tuesday to Friday, and She had no opportunity of making this alteratio_n her plans known to her Sister. As her heart was truly affectionate, and a_he had ever entertained a sincere regard for Elvira and her Daughter, he_urprize at hearing of their sudden and melancholy fate was fully equalled b_er sorrow and disappointment. Ambrosio sent to inform her of Antonia'_equest: At her solication, He promised, as soon as Elvira's trifling debt_ere discharged, to transmit to her the remainder. This being settled, n_ther business detained Leonella in Madrid, and She returned to Cordova wit_ll diligence.